“You have to wait, don’t flip!” Jenee Kim, the owner of Koreatown’s Park’s BBQ, tells her son, Jin Yang Kim, when the hiss of LA galbi sizzling in the pan tempts him to turn over the flat short ribs with his tongs. “You know, when you cook the meat you don’t flip too many times. Wait until it’s almost ready.”
“I’ll be patient,” Jin says, exhibiting his own measure of forbearance as he absorbs his mother’s cooking advice in front of the cameras at The Times Test Kitchen.
Jenee Kim, whose Park’s BBQ is the winner of 2023’s L.A. Times Gold Award, has come to The Times with Jin and her restaurant’s general manager, Ryan Park, to show off the versatility of the marinade she calls “magic sauce.”
“I call it magic sauce because you can use it for beef, chicken, shrimp, fish,” she says. “Once you make this sauce you can come up with five or six different dishes.”
Turning back to the pan, Jenee says to Jin, “When you cook meat, the temperature has to be really hot. You don’t lower the temperature.”
“What’s bad if you do it on a low temperature?” Jin asks, more for the viewers he imagines will watch the video than for his own knowledge since it seems Jenee has imparted this lesson at home before to him and his sister Elizabeth Hong, who is culinary director of Nancy Silverton’s Mozza restaurants.
“The meat gets chewy,” Jenee says. “Not tender.”
Resisting the urge to turn the meat too quickly again, Jin asks, “Why is it called LA galbi?”
“People think it’s because it’s from L.A.” his mom says.
“I thought it was,” Park says. “When I was in Korea, people said, ‘LA galbi from L.A.’”
“No,” says Jenee. “Lateral cut. La-teral cut.” Flanken or three-bone short ribs are cut horizontally across the bones instead of along the individual rib bones.
“So that’s why it’s called LA galbi.” Jin says as the meat, now properly browned, comes out of the pan. “Interesting.”
Next, Jenee uses her magic sauce to make japchae: sliced vegetables — today, she’s using carrot, onion and red and yellow bell peppers — stir-fried with sweet potato starch noodles (dangmyeon) that have been soaked in water for 15 minutes. Earlier, she used the sauce to cook bulgogi or thinly sliced rib-eye.
And the secret of this magic sauce?
Jenee adds kiwi to the traditional blend of Asian pear, onion, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, soju or sake (Kim prefers soju), brown sugar, sesame seeds, black pepper and green onion.
”Kiwi makes the meat tender,” Jenee says.
“But,” she warns, “you cannot marinate it too long if you add the kiwi because it’s going to melt the meat.”
After Park cuts the galbi into easy-to-eat pieces with scissors — “We use scissors for everything we cut,” Jenee says — it’s time for her, Jin and Park to taste the bulgogi, japchae and galbi they’ve made together.
Jin takes a bite of bulgogi and Jenee, the ever-watchful mom, reaches over and wipes a bit of sauce from the corner of her son’s mouth.
When she turns to the japchae, she practically giggles as she serves the noodles with tongs. “People think it’s so hard to make, but it’s not!”
Jin agrees: “It’s a lot easier than I thought.”
Time50 to 80 minutes total (15 to 20 minutes prep)
YieldsMakes 1 cup sauce for 1 pound meat, 4 servings
Where to try Park’s BBQ
L.A. Times Food Bowl: Park’s BBQ will be celebrated during a sold-out dinner at the Koreatown restaurant to present the 2023 Gold Award. The Park’s BBQ team also will be at the opening night of Food Bowl’s Night Market at the Paramount Studios backlot, 5555 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 8 p.m. Sept. 23. Night Market tickets available at lafoodbowl.com.
Park’s BBQ: 955 S. Vermont Ave. Los Angeles, parksbbq.com
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